BTA At The World Aviation Festival

World Aviation Festival
Nicky Tollworthy

In early September we hosted our second TMC Zone at this year’s Aviation Festival following our first appearance last year. Once again, we put the hot topics impacting the industry under the spotlight in a series of panel discussions with the biggest players, from TMCs to distribution and technology.

Day one kicked off with a debate on NDC, a subject that continues to dominate the news agenda. On the panel was David Bishop, commercial director for Gray Dawes Travel, Richard Addey, regional director at Sabre, Khalid Othman, airline relationship manager for Clarity and Daniel Murphy, NDC onboarding manager for British Airways.

Key takings from this first panel were optimistic in regards to TMCs’ adoption of the ‘new’ GDS system, with both Khalid Othman and Dave Bishop also noting that corporates are getting impatient and keen to get access to the content. Understandable, after so much anticipation.

From a supplier side, Dan Murphy confirmed that British Airways are seeing an increase in NDC volume from TMCs but recognises the need to make more content available as soon as possible.

20/20/20 was raised by moderator Steve Dunne, a term used for the IATA NDC Leaderboard, which aims to feature 20 airlines having 20% of their sales powered by an NDC API by 2020. The overall feeling amongst the panel was that this was an unrealistic goal. British Airways however is confident that they can achieve the 20/20/20 goal by the end of next year with ‘time to spare’, as Daniel Murphy states ‘they are on track to hit targets’. Watch this space!

Richard Addey from Sabre reminded the audience that NDC’s goal was to provide a bigger share of market and therefore the ability to upsell ancillary product.  However, whilst service functionality seems to be taking longer than anticipated, progress is being made.

Despite the bumps on the road, participants agreed that NDC bookings are starting to materialise but many recognise there is still a long way to go. In fact, “Test & Learn” was the expression used throughout the session. Like any project, some teething problems emerge but the general feeling was that they can be solved if the industry pulls together.

Our second session of the day saw Rami El-Dahshan, head of TMC and European sales for Virgin Atlantic, Steve Barrass, chief executive officer of TAG (The Appointment Group), John O'Sullivan, managing director for Key Travel and Christina Lawford, managing director at Diamondair International debate the topic Commoditised vs Personalised.

The general consensus amongst panellists and audience members was that personalisation is key in the industry. However, the hotel sector seems to have improved in leaps and bounds as opposed to the airline industry, which still has some work to do. Once again, NDC was the recurring theme, as well as its role towards developing a more personalised traveller experience.

On our second day of the Festival the topic of technology drew a strong crowd. The panel included Paul Broughton, regional managing director, Northern Europe, for Travelport, Alice Ferrari, strategic partnerships lead, from Founders Factory, Mick Gibbs, chief executive officer at Norad Travel Group and Mike Atherton, chief executive officer at Mantic Point Solutions Ltd.

Undeniably, there seems to be a technology overload and business travellers have to resort to multiple apps. A call to action for consolidation is important to reduce the number of apps needed on a single travel experience. Adding value to this is the importance of providing the right information at the right time.

The second and final session at this year’s BTA TMC Zone, saw Omri Amsalem, chief revenue officer at Atriis, Ludo Verheggen, director global air content adoption strategy from Amadeus, Bex Deadman, commercial director at Blue Cube Travel and Sam Cande, country manager for Traveldoo discuss content. Under the title “Are you content with your content”, this session generated interesting discussion on how content should be tailored to the needs of the business traveller of the 21st Century. In terms of the decision making process, policy, price or personal choice proved to be crucial to determine offer.

Our TMC Zone proved to be the perfect platform for a meeting of the minds in regards to discussing the hot topics within the aviation industry. Undoubtedly, the sector must come together and weather the changes that are fast approaching. Hopefully, at next year’s BTA TMC Zone we will be in a position to look at NDC and present results, and personalisation becomes the norm in the industry. 

Until next year!